Before blogging suddenly appeared in my life and started taking up all my spare time (in a good way!), I used to read a lot. I live in a cold part of the world where indoor hobbies are necessary to pass time. Curling up with a book and a hot cup of tea is a comfortable option.
I’m obviously interested in foreign cultures and that applies to my reading as well. So I’ve decided to share are a few of my favorite books about faraway places…
-Sujata Massey: The Rei Shimura series
Rei Shimura is a Japanese American woman, who becomes an accidental sleuth on her trips to Japan. The books are humorous and there is a lovely, quirky feel to the protagonist’s interpretation of various aspects of the Japanese culture. Cultural differences are highlighted, but it’s done in a loving and positive way. There’s also some romance. If you’re interested in Japan or light detective novels, you should try this series!
-Lisa See: Shanghai Girls
A nostalgic, slightly sad but very beautiful novel of the lives of two Chinese sisters who immigrated to America in the 1930’s. The historical atmosphere is colorful and the storytelling is utterly believable though entirely fictional. It’s like a time machine.
-Helene Wecker: The Golem and the Jinni (in some editions: Djinni)
Set in 1899 New York, this is another beautiful novel with a believable setting. Without giving too much away (and if you want a synopsis, there are plenty available online), it’s a magical tale about a golem and a jinni and their struggles to fit in and survive in a world that isn’t theirs but where they are stuck. Most of all this book is an engaging, vivid read with heartfelt characters. I could see and feel the streets of New York clearly, almost as if I were there.
-Mika Waltari: The Egyptian
A historical novel set in ancient Egypt recounting the life and adventures of a man called Sinuhe. The book was published in 1945 and its author is a national literary icon in Finland. This is one of the few books I’ve read twice: it combines local atmosphere, lively characters and philosophy perfectly. Not to mention history: Waltari’s ancient Egypt is captivating.
-Ryszard Kapuscinski: The Shadow of the Sun
Non-fictional accounts of a renowned Polish reporter’s travels in Africa. Kapuscinski offers fascinating interpretations of war, politics, history, culture, and life. His own life was full of travel, tough spots (e.g. sentenced to death several times in Africa, if I remember correctly), and adventure due to his line of work. He was my ultimate, off-the-beaten-track travel hero. But most of all, I enjoy his writing.
What are your favorite travel books? Any reading tips?